chapter 1 outline - Devito


Concepts of this Chapter
human communication: skills and forms
communication models and concepts
communication principles
culture and human communication

Knowledge Objectives
After completing this chapter, students should be able to
define communication
understand the nature and importance of effective communication skills
explain and give examples of the essential concepts and principles of communication
explain the relationship of culture to human communication

Skills Objectives
After completing this chapter, students should
• use the essential elements and principles of human communication in daily interactions
• act mindfully in considering the role of culture in all forms of human communication
Instructional Outline
I. Human Communication consists of the sending and receiving of verbal and nonverbal
messages between two are more people. This chapter provides the foundation for the study of
this complex process.
• The Skills of Human Communication – This text and course focus on communication skills
vital to successful personal, social, and work life. These skills include the following:
- Self-presentation skills – presenting one’s self to others as confident, credible, likeable,
and approachable is essential to effective human interaction
- Relationship skills – knowing how to initiate, maintain, repair, and even occasionally
dissolve relationships makes one a better friend, family member, romantic partner, and
- Interviewing skills – being able to interact to gather and to share information in a variety
of situations, including job interviews, enhances one’s personal and professional life
- Group interaction and leadership skills – participating as an effective group member in
relationship and task groups adds to the strength and success of the group
- Presentation skills – speaking to small and large audiences to inform or to persuade builds
self-confidence and can serve a larger common good
- Media literacy skills – being a critical user of the varied mass media encountered on a daily
basis helps one to act as informed citizen and consumer
Learning these skills requires engaging in and mastering a variety of communication forms:
- Intrapersonal – through communication with oneself, one learns about one’s self and
rehearses messages intended for others
- Interpersonal – through communication between two people, interactants learn about
themselves and the other, reveal themselves to the other, and build, maintain, repair, and
occasionally terminate relationships
- Interviewing – through communication that proceeds by question and answer, interactants
gather and share information, counsel or get counseling, obtain employment and select
others for employment
- Small Group – through communication within small groups (5 to 10 people), interactants
develop new ideas, solve problems, and share knowledge and experiences
- Public – by communicating as a speaker to an audience, one learns how to connect with an
audience to inform and to persuade
- Computer-mediated – by studying and analyzing communication that occurs through
computer connections (e.g., e-mail, IM, chat rooms, newsgroups, blogs) one learns the
differences and similarities between CMC and face-to-face communication as well as how to
be a critical user of not only CMC but also other forms of mass communication (e.g.,
newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film)
Using these communication forms as a framework, this text has three purposes:
- To explain the concepts and principles, the theory and research, in human communication
as foundational to what communication is and how it works
- To provide the skills of human communication that will increase one’s competence and
effectiveness in the real world
- To provide guidance for increasing critical thinking in general and communication
competence in particular through explanation of communication options and how to choose
the appropriate option
• Popular Beliefs about Human Communication. To begin studying communication, consider
the relationship between some common beliefs about communication and research and theory
about these beliefs.
- Belief: The more you communicate, the better your communication will be.
Research and theory finds that if you practice bad habits, you are more likely to grow less effective as a
- Belief: When two people are in a close relationship, neither person should have to explicitly
communicate needs and wants.
Research and theory indicates that people are not mind readers and to assume otherwise inhibits open and
honest communication.
- Belief: Interpersonal or group conflict is a reliable sign that the relationship or group is in trouble.
Research and theory suggests that interpersonal and group conflict is inevitable and if approached effectively
can be beneficial to the relationship or group.
- Belief: Like good communicators, leaders are born, not made.
Research and theory finds that leadership, like communication and listening, is a learned skill.
- Belief: Fear of public speaking is detrimental and must be eliminated.
Research indicates that most speakers are nervous; learning to manage anxiety effectively can enhance one’s

II. Communication Models and Concepts – human communication has been studied from a
variety of viewpoints:
o the linear view held that the speaker spoke and the listener listened
o the interactional view held that the speaker and listener were seen as exchanging
turns at speaking and listening
o the transactional view, a more satisfying view than either the linear or interactional
model, holds that each person serves simultaneously as speaker and listener. The
transactional model also holds that the elements of communication are interdependent,
a change in any element of the process produces changes in the other elements.
Communication occurs when interactants send and receive messages and when they assign
meaning to others’ signals. All human communication
o is distorted by noise
o occurs with a context
o has some effect
o involves some opportunity for feedback

Communication Context – Communication exists in a context, and that context to a large
extent determines the meaning of any verbal or nonverbal message. Context also influences
the content and form of messages conveyed. Contexts have at least four aspects:
- physical: the tangible or concrete environment
- cultural: the lifestyles, beliefs, values, ways of behaving and communicating
- social psychological: the status relationships among participants, the norms of the
group or organization, the formality-informality of the situation
- temporal: the position in which a message fits into a sequence of events

Source-Receivers – each person involved in communication is both a source (speaker) and
receiver (listener), hence the hyphenated term. Source-receivers send messages by
encoding their ideas into words, symbols, nonverbal cues. Source-receivers also decode
messages by assigning meaning to the words, symbols, and nonverbal cues of others.
Messages – vary in form and may be sent and received through any combination of
sensory organs. Messages are conveyed with words as well as nonverbal cues, such as
clothing, facial expressions, and body posture. Some messages have specialized functions:
- Feedforward: messages that preface other messages, such as the table of contents to a
book, a disclaimer before speaking (e.g., “I’m not sure this is correct, but. . .”), or the
words in the subject line of an e-mail.
- Feedback: messages or information prompted by another message, such as laughing in
response to a joke or a computer-generated message indicating a password has been
entered incorrectly.
- Metamessages: messages that refer to other messages; communication about
communication, such as saying, “I don’t think you understand what I am saying.”
- Message Overload: given the proliferation of mass emailing campaigns, telemarketing
techniques, IM, etc. people are constantly exposed to more messages than they can attend
to. Message overload leads to a variety of problems:
o It absorbs enormous amounts of time
o It can lead to rushing through information resulting in mistakes in interpreting
and responding to messages
o It makes it difficult to determine which messages need immediate attention and
which do not; which messages should be retained and which should not

Channel - the medium through which messages are sent; communication rarely takes place
over only one channel.
- Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated Communication: while face-to-face (FTF)
communication may still be most people’s primary way of interacting with others,
computer-mediated communication (CMC) is now a major part of most people’s
communicative experiences. CMC includes:
o Email – the most common use of the Internet. Email differs from FTF
communication in that it does not take place in real time, it is not necessarily
private, and it is virtually impossible to erase
o Listservs/Mailing list groups – generally these are subscription lists where the
discussion centers on a particular topic. Listservs differ from FTF
communication in that messages sent to the list are viewed by all subscription
members making side conversations difficult
o Instant Messaging (IM) – an Internet text-based system that allows for
conversation in real time. IM also can be used to share files, listen to music, and
send messages to cell phones. IM, unlike regular email, has the advantage of
letting users know who is online at any given time. IM is used by a growing
number of people for a variety of professional and personal reasons, including
bringing geographically disparate workers together to solve problems and
generate ideas, getting immediate answers to questions from distant supervisors
or colleagues, and building a sense of community among people from different
parts of the world
o Chat groups – similar to listservs with the added advantage of being able to
converse in real time
o Blogs/Interactive websites – generally used to communicate opinions about
current events and to encourage frequent communication among people how
read the blog
o One major difference between FTF communication and CMC is the relative
permanency of CMC. One should consider the following before using CMC:
?? Electronic messages are hard to destroy
?? Electronic messages are easily made public
?? Electronic messages are not privileged communication
?? Electronic messages provide permanent records
?? Electronic message files are easily accessed
Noise - anything that interferes with the sending or receiving of messages. Types of noise
- physical: interference external to speakers and listeners, such as loud music, others’
conversations, machinery noises
- physiological: physical barriers within the speaker or listener, such as visual or hearing
- psychological: cognitive or mental interference, such as prejudices, preconceived
notions and expectations
- semantic: speaker and listener assigning different meanings to messages because of
varying comprehension of signals (e.g., different language competencies or unfamiliarity
with a specialized language)
- all communication includes noise. The significance of noise may be better understood by
considering the signal-to-noise ratio of a given communicative act or channel. Most
interactants seek communication that contains significantly higher levels of useful
information (signal) as compared to useless information (noise).

Effects – the consequence of communication; what occurs because of the communication
process. Effects can be cognitive (e.g., acquiring knowledge), affective (e.g., changing a
belief), or psychomotor (e.g., learning a skill)
Communicative Competence – knowledge of how communication works and the ability
to use communication effectively. Four themes of communication competence are explored
in this text:
- Competence and Culture: the principles of effective communication vary from one
culture to another
- Competence and Critical Thinking: the ability to think critically about options for
communicating is crucial to eventual success and effectiveness
- Competence and Ethics: all communicative acts have an ethical component, a rightversus-
wrong aspect, that is separate but equally as importance as the aspect of
- Competence and Power: all communications transactions involve power
- Competence and Listening: communication effectiveness rests heavily on the ability to
III. Principles of Communication - several principles are essential to understanding human
Communication Is a Process of Adjustment – part of communication competence is
being able to identify the other person’s signals and understand how they are used and what
they mean
- Communication Accommodation: the ability to adjust communicative style to others.
Research finds that people who adjust their communicative style to others are more
readily perceived as credible, likeable, attractive, efficient communicators.
Communication Is Ambiguous – virtually all messages may be interpreted in more than
one way; some level of uncertainty always exists concerning whether messages are received
by listeners exactly the same way they were intended by speakers. Because communication is
ambiguous, learning to metacommunicate (communicate about communication) may lessen
misunderstanding and reduce uncertainty among interactants.
Communication Involves Content and Relationship Dimensions – communication
exists on at least two levels:
- Content Dimension refers to the literal meaning of the message or the behavioral
response expected
- Relationship Dimension refers to how interactants feel about the message, about each
other, and their degrees of status difference or intimacy
- Problems often result from failure to distinguish between the content and
relationship dimensions of communication.
Communication Has a Power Dimension – power, or the ability to influence or control
the actions of others, exists only in relationship to others’ perception of one’s power.
People influence others’ perception of their power through the way they communicate and,
conversely, the way people communicate influence others’ perception of the power they can
wield. Research suggests people may convey at least six types of power:
- legitimate power: when people perceive another has having the right to influence and
behavior of others because of a social role (e.g., perceiving a supervisor has having the
right to ask her employees to stay late, a police officer has having the right to arrest drunk
drivers, or a judge has having the right to pass sentences on convicted criminals.
- referent power: power generated by others’ want to be like another person. People who
are perceived as having referent power are generally attractive, charismatic, confident,
and seen as having prestige. Celebrities tend to trade in referent power.
- reward power: power generated by others’ perception of an individual’s ability to
provide material and social benefits. Rich uncles may be perceived as having reward
power as may rich friends and socially prominent acquaintances.
- coercive power: power generated by others’ perception of an individual’s ability to
administer punishment or remove rewards. Bullies generally rely on others to perceive
them as having coercive power.
- expert power: power generated by others’ perception of an individual’s special
knowledge. Doctors and lawyers are often perceived as having expert power as is the
only person in the office who knows how to replace the toner cartridge in the copy
- information power: also called persuasion power; when others’ perceive an individual as
being able to communicate logically and persuasively. Successful politicians tend to trade
in information power.

Communication Is Punctuated – communication events are continuous transactions with
no clear-cut beginning or ending; individuals divide the communication sequence into
stimuli and responses differently
Communication Is Purposeful – some motivation leads people to communicate.
Communication has five general purposes: to learn, to relate, to help, to influence, to play
Communication Is Inevitable, Irreversible, and Unrepeatable - we cannot help but
communicate; we cannot take back the messages we send; we cannot duplicate them
IV. Culture and Human Communication - Culture refers to the beliefs, ways of behaving, and
artifacts of a group that are transmitted through communication and learning rather than
through genes
The Importance of Culture – demographic changes, an increased sensitivity to cultural
differences, a global economy, and communication technology contribute to different ways
of communicating and present a need to understand and adapt to new ways of looking at
Dimensions of Culture – cultures differ in regard to at least five difference dimension
continuums: uncertainty avoidance/acceptance (the degree to which people within a society
are willing to tolerate ambiguity); acceptance/rejection of traditional views of masculinity
and femininity (the degree to which people within a society are willing to accept certain
behaviors as exclusively the purview of one sex or the other) ; high/low power distances
(the way power is distributed throughout a society); individualism/ collectivism (the relative
value placed on individual achievement vs. group effort); and high/low context (the extent
to which explication of information is expected)

The Aim of a Cultural Perspective – because culture permeates all forms of
communication, cultural understanding is needed to communicate effectively in the wide
variety of situations. A cultural perspective allows communicators to distinguish between
what is universal (true to all people) and what is relative (culturally based)
Ethnic Identity and Ethnocentrism – Ethnic identity refers to one’s commitment to the
beliefs and philosophy of one’s own culture; ethnocentrism refers to the tendency to judge
others and their behavior through one’s own cultural filters and to give greater credence to
one’s own cultural norms and behaviors than to those of other cultures